President George W. Bush on Monday spared former vice presidential aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby from going to prison for 2 1/2 years for obstructing a CIA leak investigation.
"I respect the jury's verdict. But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive," Bush said in a statement. "Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby's sentence that required him to spend thirty months in prison."
Bush's move came after intense pressure from conservatives who demanded he pardon Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, and saw him as the victim of overly zealous special prosecutor.
His decision to commute his sentence, instead of an outright pardon, was a nod to the fact that the court process for Libby had not yet run its course, but it was unlikely to quell criticism from the left.
The announcement came at the start of the Fourth of July holiday week with Congress in recess and at the end of a day in which the news was dominated by Bush's high-level talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
A federal judge ruled last month that Libby would have to report to prison in six to eight weeks. An appeals court on Monday rejected Libby's request to remain free while he appealed his conviction.
Libby was sentenced to prison for lying and obstructing an investigation into who blew the cover of a CIA officer whose husband criticized the Iraq war. He also received at $250,000 fine and two years probation.
"He will remain on probation. The significant fines imposed by the judge will remain in effect," Bush said. "The consequences of his felony conviction on his former life as a lawyer, public servant, and private citizen will be long-lasting."